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Racing legend Tony Stewart to appear at Ollie's Bargain Outlet grand opening in Merrillville

Tony Stewart, pictured at a 2016 NASCAR race, will appear at the grand opening of the new Ollie's Bargain Outlet store in Merrillville next week.

Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart will appear at the grand opening of the new Ollie's Bargain Outlet store in Merrillville next week.

The deep discount retailer, which claims to offer "70% less than fancy stores" on an ever-changing miscellany of overstock inventory and closeout merchandise, will celebrate a grand opening of its new location in the former Babies R Us at 1335 E. 79th St., Merrilville, at 9 a.m. May 22.

Ollie's will start giving out 250 free autograph tickets at 7:30 a.m. Stewart, an IndyCar Series driver champion who has won 28 championships as a car owner, will sign autographs at 10 a.m.

The only race car driver to win both IndyCar and NASCAR, the Columbus, Indiana native has amassed 12 championships, including an unprecedented win of the United States Auto Club Triple Crown. He's won the Brickyard 400 twice and season-opening NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway seven times.

Stewart retired from the wheel in 2016 but remains a co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing.

His public appearance will help mark the opening of the new Ollie's big-box store, near Costco just off U.S. 30 and Mississippi Street in Merrillville.

The fast-growing Harrisburg, Pennsylvania-based chain also is offering a number of doorbuster deals for its grand opening, like $7.99 men's Wrangler jeans and a $39.99 17-piece Farberware cookware set.

Ollie's, which opened its first Northwest Indiana location in LaPorte last year, has been rapidly growing across the country by selling liquidated goods, irregular items and overstock inventory. An anomaly at a time when much of the brick-and-mortar retail industry has been struggling with competition from e-commerce, it acquires books, home goods, hardware, flooring, sporting goods, pet supplies, electronics, seasonal merchandise and other items from other stores that no longer want to carry them or are going out of business.

Its inventory of random items like vacuum cleaners, electric razors, throw blankets, digital air fryers, spices and Bluetooth tailgate speakers constantly changes.

The Merrillville Ollie's will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, visit www.ollies.us or call 219-472-0883.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.